Comedian Judy Gold thought she was immune from Cancel Culture. She doesn’t feel that way anymore.
“I always knew about it,” says Gold, an Emmy-winning writer, actress and author of the toxic trend. “You came to this point and you think you’re safe.”
Now, a comedian’s context or intent can be downplayed, or even ignored. Suddenly, they’re the next victim.
Gold’s new book, “Yes, I Can Say That: When They Come for the Comedians, We Are All in Trouble,” explains the folly of that thinking. Part memoir, part history lesson, “Yes, I Can Say That” chronicles the early free speech battles fought by comedians Lenny Bruce and George Carlin.
Both comics found themselves on the wrong side of the law for spinning R-rated punchlines.
The book also explores how the best comics coax us to explore race, class, religion and, of course, politics. Comedy can heal and educate. It also convinces us to let our guards down.
Cancel Culture stands in the way of that progress, she warns.
Gold, an avowed progressive, ties Cancel Culture to a less openly destructive force. Call it “Everybody Gets a Trophy.”
“This person won the tournament, but you were smiling when they won,” she cracks, citing the 2018 book, “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure” as a source on the subject.
“Your feelings are the only feelings that matter… When did we get so powerless?” she asks. “You don’t wanna hurt people’s feelings, but comedy isn’t pretty.”
Gold’s book cites a 2018 incident in which an Indian-American comic, Nimesh Patel, told a progressive joke at Columbia University about how hard it is to be both black and gay in America.
The group overseeing the event quickly unplugged his microphone, despite the joke’s overtly progressive spirit.
Intent didn’t matter. A select group of attendees were “triggered” by the subject matter, including the folks who hired Patel in the first place.
“The bit is brilliant,” Gold says, furious that the audience missed the punchline’s point. “Are we really thinking in 280 characters, too?”
It can’t be easy for a progressive to blame her own side for Cancel Culture’s rise, but Gold isn’t backing down from that position. She stated it during a recent interview with podcaster Adam Carolla, and she told The Daily Wire a similar message.
“It’s really upsetting that the progressive left has stifled free speech … we’re eating our own,” says Gold. “It’s not progressive … to not acknowledge someone who has evolved or shutting someone down.”
She compares speech police efforts to telling a painter he or she can’t use a certain color and expecting the finished portrait to look like it should.
Cancel Culture also means the Academy Awards can’t find a comic host who could survive a woke vetting.
“That says a lot to me,” she says. Comic actor Kevin Hart’s brief fling with Oscar ended after old jokes insensitive to gay people resurfaced.
“The progressive left wants people to evolve … to change their viewpoints. When they do, we should acknowledge that and not bring up sh** they said 15 years ago,” she says.
Gold also defended comic Michelle Wolf who caught flak from both sides of the ideological aisle after her withering 2017 set at the White House Correspondents Dinner as well as Kathy Griffin’s ISIS-like image with the president’s decapitated head.
Some of Gold’s fellow comics fear Cancel Culture’s wrath, self-censoring their material to protect themselves — and their careers. A well-structured joke is no longer a viable defense.
“You trust your craft and your point of view,” she says. “Now? Nope, sorry, that’s not valid anymore… We can’t trust ourselves. Someone is gonna take it the wrong way, so I can’t say it.”
Few entertainers loathe President Donald Trump like Gold, which she demonstrates repeatedly throughout her new book. She still sees free speech as an area where liberals and conservatives can, and should, come together.
“I don’t believe that conservative people should be stopped from giving speeches at liberal colleges,” she says, referencing how Daily Wire Editor Emeritus Ben Shapiro, and other high-profile conservatives, require security just to speak on select campuses – if they’re allowed at all. “Who are you to tell me that? You have to hear every side of something.”
“Yes, I Can Say That” challenges conservatives with its anti-Trump passages. It also shares warm stories of comedians who directly addressed their fears with humor, like former “Facts of Life” actress Geri Jewell, who has cerebral palsy.
The book lets Gold join a short but impressive list of comedians who vocally oppose Cancel Culture.
Ricky Gervais and Carolla speak out the loudest on the issue, but so do Bill Maher, Nick Di Paolo, Dennis Miller (he called them “McCarthy hearings with a search engine”), Dave Chappelle and to some extent, Bill Burr.
“Comedians love to push the envelope because it feels so rewarding to lead people into a state of discomfort and then release them from it with a smart and unexpected punch line,” she writes in the book.
Gold, like her peers, is itching to share her comic perspectives about the pandemic and so much more, but of course there’s a catch.
“It’s the perfect storm for stand-up but there’s no place for us to perform,” she says regarding the pandemic. “We’ve been through such hell. We need to f***ing laugh. That’s where the hope is — living without the arts, people are appreciating them a little more.”
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